Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Republicans got what they wanted

By Julian Zelizer, CNN Contributor
updated 6:41 AM EDT, Fri October 18, 2013
Tourists flock to memorials in Washington on Saturday, October 19, the first weekend after the end of the partial government shutdown. The Washington Monument and other landmarks across the country have reopened to the public after the 16-day shutdown. The government impasse ended when President Barack Obama signed a spending and debt ceiling agreement that Congress passed, averting a possible default. Tourists flock to memorials in Washington on Saturday, October 19, the first weekend after the end of the partial government shutdown. The Washington Monument and other landmarks across the country have reopened to the public after the 16-day shutdown. The government impasse ended when President Barack Obama signed a spending and debt ceiling agreement that Congress passed, averting a possible default.
HIDE CAPTION
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
Government back in business
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A deal will reopen government and avert a default on U.S. debt
  • Julian Zelizer: Some have argued the deal is a total Democratic win
  • He says the reality is GOP can continue to make budget cutting dominant issue in Washington
  • Zelizer: GOP can use same tactics in 2014 to force Obama to focus on their concerns

Editor's note: Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "Governing America."

(CNN) -- With no time left on the clock, members of Congress finally reached a deal that would reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling.

As the world watched Congress stumble and tumble toward the brink of default, Senate Democrats and Republicans finally agreed on a deal that gained enough support in the House to bring this episode to a close.

Some Democrats and pundits have concluded that Democrats are walking away the victors. They correctly argue that the Republican Party has become so damaged in the polls as a result of their hardball tactics that they are extremely vulnerable in the 2014 midterms and could very well suffer in the presidential election of 2016 as a result of these debates.

Julian Zelizer
Julian Zelizer

President Barack Obama also walks away from this deal with the Affordable Care Act generally intact, as conservative proposals to repeal the program recede further and further away from political reality. In 2011, when threatened with the debt ceiling, Obama conceded to Republican demands by agreeing to the 2011 Budget Control Act. This time he refused to negotiate.

But can Democrats really claim victory? Not really.

As the dust settles, Republicans might find themselves pretty content with the outcome of this battle. In terms of public policy, they have kept the President on the defensive and kept their main issue front and center.

Throughout much of the past month and a half, when the President hoped to return from the congressional recess to push the immigration bill through the House, all attention has centered on sequestration, repealing the Affordable Care Act, cutting spending and avoiding fiscal catastrophe.

All of the other energy has been sucked out of Washington. Even with the current deal, the sequestration remains in effect, severely harming government agencies that have undergone cuts as well as those in desperate need of funding increases.

Has John Boehner been checkmated?
Sen. Ted Cruz: Deal provides no relief
How to avoid another government crisis
Is the Republican brand damaged?

Congress and the administration will now embark on more extensive discussions about budget reform that will consume the attention of both parties until the middle of January. For now, sequestration remains in place, leaving many agencies with insufficient funds.

The battle has also been beneficial to Republicans in that they have continued the process of normalizing the use of radical tactics in pushing for cuts to the federal government.

Just as many Americans seemed to accept sequestration, conservative Republicans have not yet felt any serious political threat as a result of their having forced a government shutdown.

Nor is it clear that there will be any negative consequences to them for having gone to the brink of a federal default in their fight for concessions on the budget deal. If they are left standing, there is little reason to think that they won't use these tactics once again. The last month offers them a template.

Furthermore, the current deal simply postpones any decision and actually sets up another round of fights when Congress returns from its winter break in December. The new year will look very much like the one that came before.

Given the pattern we have seen, conservative Republicans will be just as likely, even more likely, to employ the same kind of aggressive tactics and try to force the administration into accepting deep cuts in domestic spending if Obama wants to keep the economy in stable condition.

9 things we missed during the shutdown

Conservatives will be even more emboldened as they seek to please their constituents going into the 2014 midterm elections. The deal that emerged from the Senate is simply a continuation of the kind of political chaos that we have witnessed since the 2010 midterms. Obama will have to start fighting on this issue as soon as the ink is dry.

Obama has spent much of his second term on defense, responding to pressure from House Republicans to cut spending and trying to combat their use of radical procedural weapons.

This crisis was clearly the most dangerous moment for the country. And it is true that Obama and congressional Democrats walk away having achieved important objectives. After all, the government is up and running again, at least for the time being, and Congress has raised the debt ceiling, thereby averting a global meltdown.

But Republicans have defined the national agenda and forced a deal that doesn't resolve debate. Just the opposite: It ensures that the fights will continue and the threat of default continues into the foreseeable future.

Until Democrats find a way to reach some kind of long-term budget accord by building sufficient pressure -- and electoral support -- to push back against the Republican Right, they'll find themselves on the losing side of this issue over and over again.

Follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Julian Zelizer

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:12 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
By now it should be painfully obvious that this latest round of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in Gaza is fundamentally different than its predecessors.
updated 5:24 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
Sally Kohn says like the Occupy Wall Street protesters, Market Basket workers are asking for shared prosperity.
updated 7:31 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
President Obama will convene an Africa summit Monday at the White House, and Laurie Garrett asks why the largest Ebola epidemic ever recorded is not on the agenda.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
Seventy years ago, Anne Frank made her final entry in her diary -- a work, says Francine Prose, that provides a crucial link to history for young people.
updated 7:50 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Van Jones says "student" debt should be called "education debt" because entire families are paying the cost.
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 7:00 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Marc Randazza: ESPN commentator fell victim to "PC" police for suggesting something outside accepted narrative.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Mark O'Mara says working parents often end up being arrested after leaving kids alone.
updated 4:31 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Shanin Specter says we need to strengthen laws that punish auto companies for selling defective cars.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT